Most of us spend more than we should on everything from credit cards to power bills and petrol. We have compiled some simple tips that could save a little, or a lot, on your budget.
Ask yourself, “could you stretch your money further”? For most, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Your so-called fixed costs in your budget are anything but fixed and your spending is a moveable, fluid feast. The fact is nearly every one of us wastes money. We buy takeaway rather than cook. We buy clothes at full price rather than waiting for the sales. We buy books rather than borrowing them from the library. We buy lunch rather than bringing it from home. And coffee … don’t start me on coffee!
The key to a buoyant (rather than bruised) budget and bank account is to be clear on what you need to spend money on versus what you simply want to spend money on. And you’ll be pleased to hear there is a bunch of even easier ways to keep your hard-earned cash in your account, and your credit card balance close to zero.
Here are 10 tips, starting with where there’s money for the taking and ending with some simple ways to trim your spending right across your budget.
1. Cash in on credit card competition
If you carry over credit-card debt from month to month, and more than half of us do, STOP paying interest on it. Providers are falling over themselves to offer long interest-free periods on transferred balances – up to 24 months. This means every dollar you repay comes off your balance and gets you closer to freeing up a chunk of extra money each month. Just don’t spend anything new on balance-transfer cards as the rate will be sky high, and be disciplined about paying the card balance down each pay day.
2. Investigate your Insurance
General insurance (i.e. car, home, contents) can be one of your biggest costs. Switch insurers and you could save up to 15 per cent. Jump online to see how much less you could pay. Before switching, ask your existing provider for a discount … chances are they will give you one to retain a customer. If you do switch, just be sure that the cheaper policy is at least as good as the one you already have.
3. Check your health cover
If you’ve had health cover for a while, I’ll venture you’re paying too much. You can find out at privatehealth.gov.au. Don’t forget to look at any cheap restricted-membership fund you may be able to access due to your job or other memberships. Make sure your policy is tailored to your current needs (unnecessary obstetrics can set you back $500 a year)
4. Power down utility bills
The carbon tax roll-back was supposed to net us about $550 a year – right? In any case, big electricity savings are available: market researcher Energy Watch (energywatch.com.au) says a family can pocket an average of $400 a year by moving to a better offer. Similar savings could be on offer on every utility – check out switchwise.com.au.
5. Tweak Telecommunications
The under-cutting in this industry is drastically under-utilised, see whistleout.com.au to find new deals on mobile phones, plans, and broadband/internet connections. We also had a client request a discount on his Platinum Foxtel package … he received $50 off a month, for 12 months to continue his contract.
6. Milk your mortgage
A home loan is likely to be your biggest monthly outlay and also where you could save the most money. The easiest way is to ask your lender for a discount. Before you call, do your homework. Find comparable products with other lenders and what their rate is. Quote fact … don’t call up unprepared, you’ll sound far more serious about switching if they think you have been shopping around.
Treat the advertised standard variable rate merely as a starting point for negotiation. If they say no, don’t be scared to move to the best rate – often some 1.5 percentage points lower. On the average $357,500 home loan, that works out to $329 a month. And, if you can live without those “bonus” cash and pay it onto your loan, you’ll turn this into a small fortune: more than $150,000 over the life of a standard loan. Many lenders are now paying costs to move you over to their loan.
7. Clean up your accounts
Speaking of banking products, you should be paying no fees – yes, none – unless you have an investor-style home-loan package. The benchmark is now no account-keeping fees and no transaction fees, unless you transgress (e.g. miss a credit card payment). Finally, think ahead to when you’ll need cash to avoid “foreign” ATM fees of up to $2.50.
8. Fight Fuel Hikes
Fill-up your car on the cheapest day, now typically Thursdays. Then cut your consumption: get your car serviced regularly, keep car tires pumped up, unload after each trip and try not to use the air-conditioning around town (harder for our northern cousins).
9. Cut Grocery Costs
Plan your meals for the week so you don’t overbuy; shop late when goods may be discounted for quick sale; buy in bulk; cook large amounts and freeze in portion sizes to help resist takeaway on busy weeknights.
10. Exercise for Free
Do you really need a gym membership? Instead, workout for free at home or in a park or pay per visit, join an outdoor group fitness class, team up with two friends that will keep you motivated and on track. You’ll feel bad if you don’t turn up at 6am for that run and they do!
Any little steps you can take to improve your spending, save cash, or cut costs will benefit you in the long run. Even if it is only $50 a month … it might help you pay a debt of quicker, or reach your goal of that Paris holiday sooner.
If we can assist with budgeting, cash flow, reviewing mortgages or other products (i.e. insurance) for a better deal, please contact us.